PHL, Czech pledge more agreements as 40th year of relations nears

March 22, 2012 1:10 am 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, March 21 —Stressing the excellent state of their bilateral relations, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario and his counterpart in the Czech Republic, Karel Schwarzenberg, pledged recently to work towards more bilateral agreements.

The Philippines has accepted the latest Czech counter-draft of the Agreement on Cooperation in the Fields of Culture, Education, Science and Sports, paving the way to its eventual signing.

Schwarzenberg, also the First Deputy Prime Minister, visited Manila as both countries prepare to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their formal bilateral relations in 2013.

”This visit underscores the strength and significance of our bilateral relations whose beginnings date back to the 1800s when both did not yet exist as independent nations,” del Rosario noted at a joint conference.

”We are pleased with the excellent state of our bilateral relations. Today, we reaffirmed the friendship between the Philippines and the Czech Republic and reiterated our commitment to continue working together to further enhance the multiple facets of our cooperation,” they said.

They agreed to promote trade, investment and tourism and enhance cooperation in the areas of defense, culture, labor and migration and people-to-people exchange.

The Czech Republic is the Philippines’ 24th largest export market and the eight biggest in Europe with bilateral trade amounting to US$ 300 million from January to November last year.

But the officials noted that this trade was “well below their potential” and must diversify into new areas. For example, Philippine companies could export processed food products and intermediate goods for manufacturing companies in the Czech Republic.

Conversely, they said, Czech companies could consider using the Philippines as a hub for trading in the Asia-Pacific region for Czech cars, crystals and other consumer products.

Czech investors are encouraged “to look at opportunities in finance, clean energy and infrastructure including air and land transport particularly those under the Philippine Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative,” they said.

As a new foreign policy, the Czech Republic is expanding economic relations with Asia where it has traditional ties, like the Philippines.

”The Philippines looks at it as an enabling platform for our respective governments to encourage the participation of the private sector to expand trade and investment,” they said.

Del Rosario noted that the Czech Republic was one of the earliest to give “significant and timely humanitarian” cash assistance when typhoon Sendong (Washi) hit the southern Philippines last December.

The Philippines and the Czech Republic will explore the possibility of opening opportunities for skilled Filipino workers in the Czech Republic, they pledged.

Czech-Philippine ties can be traced to the days of Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who visited the city of Litomerice in Bohemia, the present day Czech Republic, in 1887 to visit his good friend Professor Ferdinand Blumentritt.

The Czech Republic pledges support to regional and multilateral issues confronting the Philippines, including the West Philippine Sea and the situation in the Middle East, the European Union, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).(PNA) RMA/GJB

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